Elizabethan Religious Settlement
The Elizabethan Religious Settlement was Elizabeth I’s response to the religious divisions created over the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. This response, described as "The Revolution of 1559", was set out in two Acts of the Parliament of England. The Act of Supremacy of 1559 re-established the Church of England’s independence from Rome, with Parliament conferring on Elizabeth the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England, while the Act of Uniformity of 1559 set out the form the English church would now take, including the establishment of the Book of Common Prayer. When Mary died in 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. One of the most important concerns during Elizabeth’s early reign was the question of which form the state religion would take. Communion with the Roman Catholic Church had been reinstated under Mary using the instrument of Royal Supremacy. Elizabeth relied primarily on her chief advisors, Sir William Cecil, as her Secretary of State, and Sir Nicholas Bacon, as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, for direction on the matter. Many historians believe that William Cecil himself wrote the Church Settlement because it was the 1551-2 version dusted down. Parliament was summoned in 1559 to consider a Reformation Bill and to recreate an independent Church of England. The drafted Reformation Bill defined the Communion in terms of Reformed Protestant theology, as opposed to the transubstantiation of the Roman Catholic mass, included abuse of the Pope in the litany, and ordered that ministers should not wear the surplice or other Roman Catholic vestments. It allowed priests to marry, banned images from churches, and confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Bill met heavy resistance in the House of Lords, as Roman Catholic bishops and lay peers opposed and voted against it. They reworked much of the Bill, changed the proposed liturgy to allow for belief in transubstantiation in the Communion, and refused to grant Elizabeth the title of Supreme Head of the Church. Parliament was prorogued over Easter, and when it resumed, the government entered two new bills into the Houses—the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity. The Papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, issued on 25 February 1570 by Pope Pius V, declared "Elizabeth, the pretended Queen of England and the servant of crime" to be a heretic, released all of her subjects from any allegiance to her, and excommunicated any who obeyed her orders. The bull, written in Latin, is named from its incipit, the first three words of its text, which mean "ruling from on high" (a reference to God). Among the queen's alleged offenses, "She has removed the royal Council, composed of the nobility of England, and has filled it with obscure men, being heretics." Under Elizabeth, factionalism in the Council and conflicts at court greatly diminished. The Act of Supremacy 1558 revived ten Acts of Henry VIII that Mary had repealed and confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and passed without difficulty. Use of the term "Supreme Governor" instead of "Supreme Head" pacified many who were concerned about a female leader of the Church. Elizabeth's changes were more wholesale than those of her half-brother, Edward VI. All but one of the bishops lost their posts, and a hundred fellows of Oxford colleges were deprived. Many dignitaries resigned rather than take the oath, and the bishops who were removed from the ecclesiastical bench were replaced by appointees who agreed to the reforms. On the question of images, Elizabeth's initial reaction was to allow crucifixes and candlesticks and the restoration of roods, but some of the new bishops whom she had elevated protested. In 1560 Edmund Grindal, one of the Marian exiles now made Bishop of London, was allowed to enforce the demolition of rood lofts in London, and in 1561 the Queen herself ordered the...
Bibliography: Dickens, A. G. (1967). The English Reformation. Fontana
Haigh, Cristopher (1993). English Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors. Oxford University Press
Maltby, Judith (1998). Prayer book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England. Cambridge
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